Puff Pastry Almond Pear Tart

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I’ve been on a baking kick lately. I think it’s because I’m immersed in a culture that loves sweets more than Americans. Pears and almonds complement each other so well, and they are in abundance in Germany. This tart came together surprisingly fast because the puff pastry crust was store-bought. I’m not ashamed. I used a 26 cm springform, which yields around 8 slices of tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of puff pastry (“Blättertieg”), thawed
  • 200 g marzipan
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 4 small ripe pears, peeled, cored, and halved
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Line a 26 cm springform with the puff pastry.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the marzipan, almond meal, eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.
  4. Pour the mixture over the puff pastry, and spread it evenly with a spatula.
  5. Place the pears cut side up in a radial pattern.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes.
  7. Cool to room temperature before serving.

 

 

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Almond Horn Cookies

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These cookies are made of marzipan (almond paste and sugar), which is a very popular food in Germany. I hadn’t realized how tasty marzipan is until we moved here – I’ve made these cookies about four times now, and they were instantly devoured every time. It gets a little messy, so the best order of operations is laid out below.

Servings: 8 cookies

Ingredients

  • 200 g marzipan (1 packet)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • 100 g sliced almonds
  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup milk (I just eyeballed it)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp sugar, set aside

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C.
  2. Spread the sliced almonds on a dish.
  3. Line a cookie sheet with some baking paper.
  4. In a small saucepan on extremely low heat, melt the chocolate, milk, and butter. Keep an eye on this so that it doesn’t boil or burn. Stir occasionally. When the mixture is well combined, stir in the 2 tsp sugar.
  5. Combine the egg, almond extract, 2 tbsp sugar, marzipan, and almond meal in a bowl. I mixed this by hand. It gets all over the place.
  6. Take about 1 tbsp of the mixture and roll it into a log directly on the dish with sliced almonds.
  7. Fold the log into a horn shape, and place it on the cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  10. Dip the ends in the chocolate mixture.
  11. Refrigerate until the chocolate has cooled into a shell, around 3o minutes.
  12. Try not to eat the whole pan.

 

Pecan Pie

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Super easy pecan pie – takes around an hour to make when you use puff pastry as the crust, and about 4 hours when you make the crust by hand (but this is mostly waiting for the dough to chill). I took the crust recipe from Serious Eats, and I like what they had to say about why the dough works:

  • One round of folding provides eight major layers with minimal fuss.
  • Refrigerating the dough after shaping ensures it’s fully chilled and relaxed, preserving its flakes in the oven.

Ingredients

Depending on how much time you have, decide if you want to do a quick crust or a proper crust.

Crust (Quick)

  • thawed puff pastry (enough to line your pie pan; 1 packet should do the trick)

Crust (Proper)

  • 1/2 and 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 112 g butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes (this size is important, as smaller pieces will melt too fast)
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Filling

  • 200 g pecans
  • 400 ml caramel sauce or about 36 unwrapped soft caramels
  • 100 g brown sugar (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • vanilla beans from 1 vanilla pod
  • 50 g butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • optional: 1 tbsp rum

Directions

Crust (Quick)

  1.  Trim the puff pastry to fit the pie pan.
  2. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes with pie weights (baking blind).

Crust (Proper)

  1. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  2. Toss the butter with flour mixture to break up the pieces.
  3. With your fingertips, smash each cube flat. No rubbing or cutting. It should not blend completely with the flour.
  4. Stir in water, then knead dough against the sides of the bowl until it comes together in a shaggy ball.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes.
  6. Roll dough into a roughly 5- by 8-inch rectangle.
  7. Fold the 5-inch sides to the center, then close the newly formed packet like a book.
  8. Fold in half once more, bringing the short sides together to create a thick block.
  9. Using as much flour as needed, roll into a circle to fit your pie pan
  10. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim the edge so that it overhangs by 1 1/4 inches all around.
  11. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  12. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes with pie weights (baking blind).

Pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the caramel, butter, and milk.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla.
  4. Slowly fold the caramel sauce and lemon juice into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the caramel mixture in the pan.
  6. Arrange the pecan pieces in a radial pattern.
  7. Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool until the filling is set, around 30 minutes.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

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This cake reminds me of lemon and blueberry muffins from when I was a kid. Soft, gooey blueberries in moist and warm cake that leaves a lemony aftertaste… Drool.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup of room temperature butter (or heat briefly in the microwave for about 30 sec)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest (I used about 2 lemons)
    • It’s easiest to zest the lemons and then juice them. Hanging onto a whole lemon while grating its rind is easier than a slippery peel.
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice (about 1 lemon), remove the seeds
  • 1.5 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 package of fresh blueberries, washed and tossed in 2 tbsp of flour
    • Tossing the blueberries in flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the pan
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Butter or grease the bread pan. I used a 10.5″ x 4.5″ x 3″ pan.
  3. Beat the eggs, butter, sugar, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Try not to overbeat the eggs.
  4. Separately mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt.
  5. Alternately combine the dry mix and milk in the butter-egg mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Fold the lemon zest and blueberries into the batter.
  7. Pour into the bread pan.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes. Check for done-ness by inserting a toothpick or wooden kabob skewer or (if you grew up in an Asian house) wooden chopstick in the middle of the bread. It should come out clean, without any clumps.
  9. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan.
  10. Slide a knife around the edges of the pan (careful not to scratch the bottom of the pan) to loosen the bread.
  11. Invert the pan to remove the bread.
  12. Set on a wire rack to cool for another 10-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

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I used this recipe to start, and added a couple of my own ideas to it.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk

Frosting

  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 packages of raspberries (I will use 4-5 packages next time so that the top will be covered with raspberries.)

Directions

Cake

  1. Grease a 10.5″ x 4.5″ x 3″ pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together.
  4. Separately, mix the vanilla and milk together.
  5. In a third container, beat the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes with an electric mixer.
  6. Add the egg, mix, then add the egg yolk.
  7. Alternately mix the flour and liquids in parts until you get a smooth batter.
  8. Pour and spread the batter in the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean.
  9. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  10. Invert to remove the cake. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes more.
  11. Cut the cake lengthwise in half.

Frosting

  1. Whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together.
  2. Separately beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Slowly (and in parts!) add the sugar/cocoa powder to the butter and mix well. Alternate adding the dry mix with the liquid vanilla/milk mix. Beat until you get a smooth frosting.

Putting the Cake Together

  1. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting between the layers of the cake.
  2. Cover the rest of the cake with the frosting.
  3. Outline the bottom of the cake with raspberries, and fill in the cake from the bottom to the top.
  4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Fruit & Nut Bar Recipe

Over the last few months, I’ve discovered (and become addicted to) Kind bars. My favorite flavor is the Almond & Apricot bar. Eating it is a magical experience. This is a homemade recipe I’ve hobbled together, which doesn’t taste anything like the Kind bar, but is still darn-tootin’ delicious. I might try switching out the dried fruits with other varieties later on, but this seems like a good place to start.

This recipe will make about 10-12 bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup of juice (I have tried mango lemonade from Trader Joe’s and also apple juice. Both are tasty.)
  • 1/4 or 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon (depends on how much cinnamon you like)
  • 1 cup of almonds (roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup of pecans (roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup of coconut flakes
  • 1 cup of your favorite puffed cereal (I like chocolate rice puffs)
  • 1/3 cup of dried blueberries
  • 1 cup of craisins
  • 1/3 cup of chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat the syrup, honey, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and juice together in a pan on the stove. Stir frequently and heat evenly until the mixture is about 260 F.
  2. In a long glass pan (I used a 9 x 13 in casserole dish), combine the remaining dry ingredients.
  3. Once the stove-top mixture is hot enough, pour it over the dry ingredients in your glass pan. Mix well.
  4. Try to press the sticky, nutty mix flat, perhaps with a spatula.
  5. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then cut them into bars.
  6. Wrap the bars in something like wax paper to store in the refrigerator. This batch never makes it past a week on my watch… I just eat them too fast.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Making homemade cookies is the best! I love cinnamon, so I added some to my usual chocolate chip recipe. This recipe makes about 20 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups of semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup of melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

Equipment:

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • cup measures
  • electric beater
  • spatula
  • cookie sheet
  • cooling rack for the cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Hand stir the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a bowl. Then let sit for 5 minutes, until the sugar is absorbed by the butter. This produces flatter cookies that have a shiny top and are crispy at the edges.
  3. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to the bowl. Beat.
    • Don’t worry if you overbeat the eggs. Your cookies will still turn out fine! You only worry about overbeating them when you’re making something like meringue or angel food cake.
  4. Separately mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  5. Add the flour mix at 1/2 a cup at a time, beating as you go.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips
  7. Scoop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet 1 tbsp at a time.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool for ~5 minutes before you transfer them to the cooling rack.

Enjoy!